Digital Britain is under threat from cyber criminals
Desperate measures are being discussed at the RSA security conference in San Francisco to deal with the growing threat of cyber criminals. How do both businesses and consumers stop the unscrupulous from stealing our valuable personal data? According to security firm Symantec, 90 per cent of hackers target private data. And those attacks are increasing in number at a frightening pace. Sophos says a Web page is infected every 4.5 seconds. Every day, over 20,000 new samples of malware (vicious computer viruses) are discovered.
The answer, say conference delegates, is greater collusion between software vendors, a somewhat controversial solution given the competitiveness of the industry. RSA president Art Coviello suggested collaborating on standards and sharing technologies in an attempt to prevent cybercrime from escalating. Microsoft's Scott Charney used his presentation to echo Coviello. "When you have a common enemy, it really galvanises organisations to work closely together," he said.
Companies will also need to focus on the enemy within. A survey by Infosecurity Europe of 600 City workers found that over a third (37% per cent) would steal company information for the right price. What was the price? 63 per cent of finance professionals would hand over sensitive data for one million pounds, 10 per cent would do it in exchange for their mortgage being paid off, while 5 per cent would do it for a new job, a figure no doubt skewed by the current City malaise. The types of information that the workers said they had access to included customer databases (83 per cent), business plans (72 per cent) and IT admin passwords (37 per cent).
Melissa Hathaway, acting senior director for cyberspace for the National Security and Homeland Security Council, has just completed a review of US cybersecurity for President Obama. Hathaway told RSA conference delegates that the internet had not been built with safety in mind. "This poses one of the most serious challenges of the 21st Century. We have witnessed countless intrusions that have allowed criminals to steal hundreds of millions of dollars and allowed nation states and others to steal intellectual property and sensitive military information," Hathaway said. The review is expected to recommend that the US take direct control of cybersecurity.
The perceived threat of fraud is certainly rising. Nearly three-quarters of UK consumers believe that they are at greater risk of identity theft and credit card fraud as a result of the global recession, according to a report by Unisys. Nine out of ten respondents were worried about criminals gaining access to their bank details. Chip and pin, which at its launch was touted by banks as a panacea for card fraud, has unfortunately failed to curb fraudulent activity.
According to figures from APACS, card fraud hit a record £610m in 2008, 14 per cent up on 2007. Since February 2006, when chip and pin became universal, there has been an increase in fraud of 43 per cent. Banks blame the figures on doctored machines that instead of processing point of service data transmit the customer's card details to overseas fraudsters. No wonder that the Unisys security index, which rates consumers' fear of fraud, has jumped 20 per cent. If the government is keen on promoting its vision of a Digital Britain, it must first shore up the holes in its infrastructure.
Posted 23 April 2009 : Director.co.uk